Sometimes you can't avoid real people, though. I've kept up with the jogging, and I've noticed that a fair number of people like to wave and say, "Hi," or "Good evening." Often they just smile, especially the women walking their dogs. A woman's smile is hard to resist. I don't understand how they can be so pretty and gracious and yet still initiate two-thirds of divorces. It's not flirting, by the way. I have a different theory. They're wired to disarm the world. A woman needs to know the intentions of this approaching male. Is he indifferent, predatory, or civilized? She wants the world to be a warm fuzzy place that your presence does not jeopardize. Or it could be that she's just the friendly sort. I said it was a theory.
And sometimes neighbors with whom I'm actually acquainted will pass by in a car. The car slows down, the window rolls down, and an incredulous voice asks, "What are you doing?" I could be a smart-ass and say, "What does it look like?" but instead it's usually, "Trying to get home alive," or "Tempting fate," you know, something mildly self-deprecating so that they can feel good about making fun of me. I resist informing them that it's not true that sedentary people age slower.
* * *I trotted by a house the other day with a big white pickup in the driveway with "So and So's Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping" emblazoned on the door. The owner's yard was a pastiche of dirt, weeds and yellow patches of grass. There's a lesson there, probably.
* * *I might have mentioned somewhere else - can't remember where or when, as I say it's all a blur - that one night I was attacked by a couple of dogs, a pit bull and a Shepherd mix. They were working together. They chased me for a quite a while, until I realized that running just made them react like predators to a prey's flight response. Cesar Milan's hissing and finger-snapping trick didn't work either. So I turned and tried to kick the Shepherd in his snapping jaw. He dodged but they backed off. Some animals, like a lot of people, don't understand anything but the threat of force. I carry a weapon now. At first it was a cut-off piece of irrigation hose, but now it's just a larger than average pocket knife. Yes, I love dogs, but if yours attacks me, I'll gut him. Sorry about that.
* * *So anyway I wake up from my semester blur and all kinds of things have been happening. Up in Sanford, a few miles north of here, the so-called Reverend Al Sharpton, the New Black Panthers, and all kinds of strange folks showed up in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing to agitate about "Justice." Of course, none of them know what really happened during the deadly confrontation, and yet it's the next great civil rights cause. Meanwhile, up Norfolk, Virginia way, two white reporters got set upon by a black mob for no reason whatsoever, were beaten badly enough to spend a week in hospital, and their own newspaper failed to report the incident for two weeks. And the reporters are suing the police department for what we might call a lack of investigative enthusiasm. Things are just fine in this country. They're getting better all the time.
Somewhere in this great land a judge proposed throwing out four of the ten commandments in order to resolve a church-state dispute between a high school displaying those commandments and someone who found the display offensive. (It only takes one these days.) If I recall, the evicted commandments contain mention of the word "God." Getting rid of the word, the judge hopes, will settle everybody down. But I wonder what good the other six are if it is not acknowledged that they come from God? How long would the constitution last if we all pretended we didn't know who wrote it? Why do I bother?
Recently I came across a cover of Time picturing a good-looking blonde woman breastfeeding her son. Her four year old son, who was standing on a stool to get at the goodies. A number of people were offended. I have a long-established, publicly available opinion on the matter of breastfeeding in public (links in the sidebar) and about the allure of women's breasts in general, but I'll have to say that there is something unsettling about the picture, and especially the woman's attitude. She's staring - not in maternal tenderness at her son - but at us. Brazenly. She's daring some sort of reaction. And besides, shouldn't a boy that age have gotten started on cow's milk by now? Milkshakes? Yogurt? Ben and Jerry's? Well, why should he? He's got his own Dairy Queen on heels. The cover's justification is apparently some regnant controversy about a thing called "attachment parenting." I don't know what it is, and don't want to know, but can settle it right now: Both my kids are grown, but I'm as keenly attached to them as I ever was, and never breastfed either one. There.
Up in New York, a court of appeals ruled that it is not illegal to view child pornography online, the ruling coming down in the case of a college professor in whose computer cache the images were found. New York law prohibits (I paraphrase) creating, possessing, distributing, promoting or facilitating child pornography. But, saith the judges:
"[S]ome affirmative act is required (printing, saving, downloading, etc.) to show that defendant in fact exercised dominion and control over the images that were on his screen. To hold otherwise, would extend the reach of (state law) to conduct — viewing — that our Legislature has not deemed criminal."In other words, the professor had not downloaded, except in the sense that everything you view on the internet is downloaded to your computer, to your various caches. If you're using Windows, for example, such images will be stored in your temporary internet files, your content.IE5, your history, your pagefile.sys, and probably several other places because of the redundancy built into certain programs. And they will remain there until you delete them, and most of you don't know how to delete certain of these files, didn't know they even existed, and it's possible some of them can't be deleted short of a hard drive reformat, in which case you lose everything. And it is possible that you could end up on a filthy site after clicking a deceptive link. And so, no, I don't think you should be prosecuted for something in your cache that might have gotten there through no fault of your own. Unfortunately, this protects the professor too, even though his cache-track evinced a pattern of depraved behavior, and even though we all "exercise dominion and control" over the images we see, and can "facilitate" their dispersal simply by emailing the link to our fellow enthusiasts without ever downloading the thing itself.
The law in this area seems to me confusing and cowardly. It's against the law to make the stuff but not to look at it. But looking at pornography facilitates it. If no one ever looked at it, it wouldn't exist. On the other hand, we don't want an innocent grandmother who clicked on an email scam sent to the hoosegow. And if someone downloads the stuff, but never distributes it, never does anything with it but look at it, how is that different than "viewing?" It isn't. And yet we consider child pornography (and I would include all pornography) to be so morally noxious that its manufacturers can face very long jail terms. I wonder how that professor found his child porn. Did he search for it? If so, is the search engine he used "facilitating" the distribution? I think so. Why can't that company be prosecuted? Isn't that company a pimp for the porn manufacturer's product?
In other words, what needs to be done will not be done. We're enlightened now and know that 'censorship' is a dirty word. I can only conclude that it must be dirtier than the thing we want to censor, or else we'd have the will to carry through. We want so much to protect our children...just not that much.
I'm getting tired. I wanted to write about Obama's gay marriage epiphany, but it will have to wait.
Speaking of wait, Wait. I just remembered something from that blur of a semester: one of my students was converted to Christ after viewing a film about the Shroud of Turin. About a year ago, she was attending one of her church's youth group meetings, which she did regularly, motivated by a desire to please her parents and to associate with friends, but not out of any love for Jesus, to whom she seldom gave much thought. At this particular meeting, a guest speaker showed them the film (I don't know which one), and toward the end, when the figure's three dimensional quality began to take focus, a funny feeling came over her. A white light formed in her field of vision, nearly blinding her to everything else. When she got home, she went to her room in a state of great anxiety, touched somewhat by fear that her body could not of its own accord dispel the light, and finally felt compelled to demand of Jesus that he show himself. Either tell me who you are, that you're real, or else leave me alone; either come into my heart or go away, if you're there. And after many minutes of this (the way she told it gave the impression she was in a state near agony) she felt what she could only describe as a great love, like a liquid being poured into her, flood her heart, letting Jesus into it. She had to let him in, she said, and she's kept him there. It is exactly the sort of experience the effects of which I'd expect to dissipate within days or weeks, but a year later she's still in the camp of the righteous, so I have good hope that this one will "endure unto the end."